Before I launch into an “ Oh my god – it was wonderful! “ style review, I would like to offer a brief back ground detailing how I eventually ended up on this truly fabulous cruise. Two years ago I decided that for my birthday I wanted to go whale watching; also I have always wanted to visit Alaska having seen the documentaries and been in awe of the place, so I started a search to see whether it was possible to do both at the same time. I didn’t know exactly what I did want, but I knew exactly what I didn’t want. The thought of a large cruise ship with thousands of people on board stopping for shopping in ports at every available opportunity, having to fight my way through crowds to get anywhere, and having to dress up for dinner made me feel nauseous. A few years ago my boss went on a small ship cruise to Baha to see grey whales, and I knew this was the type of thing that I would be comfortable with, so the search began and I narrowed it down to four companies, but eventually chose Uncruise. Their website is full of excellent information, photos and videos, and when I eventually pick myself up off the floor after seeing their prices (let’s be realistic about it!) I eventually decided these were the people I wanted to go with. We chose the luxury cruise on the Safari Endeavour as my husband and I are not the active outward bounds type, but we still wanted some activity options. We booked the cheapest cabin available and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be living in a small cupboard for a week.
A few months before the cruise I received the final paperwork, and a kit list. Not being the very out-doors type I didn’t have very much of the required equipment for this cruise and I couldn’t afford to spend loads of money on stuff I would only wear for one week, so I improvised with pretty much everything. Something that isn’t explained very well on the website is that as soon as you board the ship all passengers are issued with any waterproof essential kit they might need; wellingtons, a pair of waterproof trousers that fit over the top of your other trousers and a water proof coat if you don’t have one, so please don’t rush out any buy loads of stuff as all the essentials you need are available to you free of charge. Two of the most useful items I took with me were thermal leggings and thermal t-shirts, both purchased from E Bay at a very low cost. The leggings were very comfortable under the water poof trousers, which are not quite so comfortable over jeans or hiking trousers, and the thermal t-shirts I wore during all activities under another t-shirt, fleece/sweat shirt, and coat. I wore 3-4 layers most days. Also, when I received the pre-cruise paperwork I discovered that a gratuity for the crew of 5-10% of the total cruise cost would be expected – please be aware of this, as it does add to the overall cost of your cruise.
Sunday 27 July arrived, and we walked down to the harbour in Juneau and saw the Safari Endeavour sitting waiting for us. The welcome we received from the crew was so enthusiastic it nearly knocked me over, and the first wonderful surprise was our cabin. It was not a small cupboard as I had expected, but two full size single beds with the space between being a little wider than the doorway. The beds were high enough to have a large storage area underneath for boots, shoes and luggage. Towards the back of the cabin was a good sized table and opposite was the private bathroom with corner shower and decent quality toiletries in a wall mounted dispenser. This was a small bathroom, but well designed. The whole of the rear wall was wardrobes and large deep drawers, so there was more than enough storage space for all your stuff.
The meals on board ship are served at 7.30am, 12.30pm and 7.00pm respectively, and there is no flexibility surrounding these meal times; you understand why after being introduced to the staff and crew who are going to be spending the week looking after you. There are a choice of activities every morning and afternoon, and the activities are basically hard, medium and easy depending on your personal fitness level and what you would enjoy doing. To be able to organise all these activities for 84 guests the crew need to have everyone available at exact times and their level of multi-tasking and organisation is exceptional. You are given the details of the next day’s events and activities at 6.00pm in the lounge before dinner the previous day. If you are not able to get to the lounge the PA system is also in your cabin so you never miss any announcements. Your chosen activity time is then posted in the lounge at breakfast time the next day, and it is announced through the PA system 10 minutes before it is due to start, so you have enough time to get ready and assemble at the requested point.
The food is excellent quality, but the portion sizes were smaller than I expected; I have always had really large meals when previously visiting America. The chef tells you each day what the choice of meals for the following day will be; there is a meat, fish and vegan or vegetarian dish as required. I did initially think I might get hungry but they work on the little-and-often strategy; there is a basket of cereal bars in the lounge at all times to pick at as you walk past, which are very welcome if you are going off the boat on an activity, or have just returned from one. In the afternoon there were large trays of freshly baked cookies in the lounge, and at 6.00pm; Cocktail hour in the lounge, a long table was laid out with lovely nibbles, which were very popular. All meals are served slowly, and wine and water is topped up all the time. Because of this I did not get hungry at all.
“ A plan to deviate from “ is the theme of the cruise. Whilst a cruise route is set initially, the weather is Alaska is very unpredictable and therefore fast changes have to be made at very short notice. There had been an earthquake a few days before we arrived, and because of this one of the places we were trying to get to was blocked with icebergs, so the plan deviated. If any wildlife is sighted, or the captain gets informed of anything of interest the ship with change course. The emphasis is on seeing the very best wildlife and wilderness Alaska has to offer, and every possible opportunity is taken to achieve this.
The crew are very hands-on when it comes to ensuring you have the best possible time; we were encouraged to try kayaking and after taking their beginners lesson we went out several times on our own and loved it. All guests are encouraged to get off the boat in one way or another and see the real beauty of Alaska, and I always felt very safe with the activities crew in whatever I was doing. There is however one instance I would mention to them. I had fallen behind on a walk at Glacier Point and ended up walking alone for some time. Having been warned about the dangers of brown bears and moose in the woods I did become a little afraid, so please be mindful of the slower members of your group.
I met some wonderful people on this cruise from all different walks of life, and one of the things I liked the most was the “equal” attitude of the crew. Everyone got exactly the same smile and lovely warm attitude from all the crew irrelevant of who you were, where you were from, and what you did for a living. On the sad day when we had to disembark and say a very fond farewell to the wonderful crew and captain Jenna, as we walked back down the pier into Juneau a very unassuming gentleman approached us and asked if we had enjoyed ourselves. We assured him we had, and he told us he owned the company. I was a little shocked by this, as I really didn’t expect the owner of Uncruise to be waiting on Juneau pier to talk to us? If you were the actual owner of Uncruise, your cruises are the most amazing experience ever. I will definitely cruise with you again one day, as I had the most wonderful, memorable, exciting time ever.
Excellent cabin with comfy beds, loads of storage space and functional bathroom.